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Toward a National Estimate of Police Use of Nonlethal Force

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 7 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2008 Pages: 563-604
Matthew J. Hickman; Alex R. Piquero; Joel H. Garner
Date Published
November 2008
42 pages
Using data from the Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS) and the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ), this study estimated the prevalence of police use of nonlethal force, as well as the threat to use such force.
Using comparable measures from these surveys, the study estimated that the police used or threatened to use force in 1.7 percent of all contacts and in 20 percent of all arrests. The PPCS accounts for 87 percent of the force incidents derived from both surveys. Males, youths, and racial minorities report greater rates of police use of force. Multivariate models highlight the role of potentially provoking behaviors on the likelihood and severity of force. These findings indicate that police use nonlethal force infrequently and at the lower end of the severity scale. The use of the PPCS and the SILJ to produce a national-level estimate of police use of force furthers the goal of national-level data on all uses of force in the United States; however, although the authors recommend continuing the statistical surveys on which these estimates are based, they advise that an understanding of the amount and correlates of police use of force would be improved if there were sufficient resources and commitment to compile representative samples of agency records of police use of lethal and nonlethal force. The PPCS is a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which uses a nationally representative sample of households. The SILJ provides the first analysis of police use of force experienced by incarcerated persons at the time of their arrest. 12 tables, 1 figure, 81 references, and appended list of studies over the past 25 years that measured the police use of force